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Women in stressful jobs at higher risk of heart attacks

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Natasha Wilson
WVoN co-editor

Women with stressful jobs are at a higher risk of heart attacks, a new study shows.

The Women’s Health Study tracked more than 22,000 female health professionals over a period of 10 years and discovered a link between work and heart problems.

Researchers grouped women into four categories: passive job strain (low demand and low control jobs), active (high demand and high control), low strain (low demand and high control), or high strain (high demand and low control).

The findings, published in PLoS ONE show women in high stress jobs are 67 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than women in low stress jobs.

It also showed that 38 per cent of women in high stress jobs are more likely to have any kind of cardiovascular event such as a stroke, high blood pressure or heart surgery.

Dr. Michelle A. Albert, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital said: “The stress we’re talking about here is stress that exceeds the body’s capacity to manage or adapt appropriately.”

Surprisingly, the results showed that women with a high level of control in their jobs still experienced elevated health risks, whereas previous findings suggested having more control at work reduced stress levels.

Positions where women could be seen as having a high level of control suggests they have a level of authority, such as a manager or executive, or someone with power to make major decisions.

Dr Albert suggests this new discovery may be due to an increased pressure on women to perform in high level jobs and prove themselves against men in the same positions.

Also trying to balance work and family life could be a factor with many women taking work home with them and not getting the chance to relax.

Dr Albert said physical activity is important to reduce stress and women should set aside time each day for yoga and meditation for relaxation.

During the 10 year study, there were 170 heart attacks, 163 strokes, 440 procedures such as angioplasty to bypass or unblock coronary arteries — and 52 deaths from cardiovascular disease.

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